Wildlife Photographer of the Year winners highlight the beauty and sadness of animal life

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Sergey Gorshkov’s winning image shows an Amur tigress hugging an ancient Manchurian fir in the Russian Far East.

Sergey Gorshov/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A dreamy looking Amur tigress rubbing her cheek against an ancient Manchurian fir in the Russian Far East captured top honors in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, held annually by London’s Natural History Museum. It took Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov more than 11 months to capture the moment, using hidden cameras. The tigress is marking her territory by leaving behind secretions from her scent glands.

“It’s a scene like no other, a unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest,” said Roz Kidman Cox, chair of the judging panel. 

The Duchess of Cambridge announced the winner in a ceremony live-streamed on Tuesday.

Liina Heikkinen of Finland won Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for her dramatic image of a young fox refusing to share the barnacle goose it holds in its jaws. 

Some images catch animals in their natural habitat, but others focus on exploitation of animals by humans. One shows a muzzled polar bear performing in a Russian traveling circus, while another shows three tigers rescued from the Oklahoma animal park once owned by Joe Exotic, whose story was told in the popular Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.

“There has never been a more vital time for audiences all over the world to reengage with the natural world,” said Tim Littlewood, the museum’s executive director of science, “and what better way than this inspiring and provocative exhibition?”

Photographers submitted almost 50,000 entries this year. The photographs will be exhibited at the London museum from Oct. 16 through June 6, 2021, and then will embark on a UK and international tour. The next competition, the 57th annual, will open for entries Oct. 19, and close for entries on Dec. 10. It is open to photographers of all ages and abilities.

In 2019, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award went to Chinese photographer Yongqing Bao for a photo showing a Tibetan fox about to lunge at a startled marmot. The marmot did not survive the encounter.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. 


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